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Strategy

Bypass the Hype: How to Strategically Grow Your Online Business

The reason most people fail isn’t that they’re not taking enough action in their business – it’s that they’re taking too much of the wrong kind of action.

Which is why in this post, I’m going to cover something that not a lot of people talk about… but it’s so foundational that you “can’t pass go” without it. Something that every successful business is built on whether you’re a coach, consultant, creative, service provider, healer, doctor, independent professional or you sell physical products or software.

And that is the concept of sequencing or doing the right things at the right time to grow your business step-by-step-by-step. 

I call this an “earn while you learn” strategy… because it’s based on focusing on the actions that will allow you to profit today so you can start bringing revenue into your business right away, which gives you the resources you need to invest in your business growth and sustain the big work you’re doing in the world.

The Danger of Getting Carried Away

One of the biggest problems I see in the online business world is that most business trainers get a little carried away and a little bit excited about ALL the tools, tactics and technologies that they forget that having an online business is just like having a regular business that uses the internet to attract and serve new customers.

They end up losing perspective and focusing on the tools rather than the business. They teach these one-size-fits-all magic bullet solutions for making money online. And they’re usually teaching a specific tool or tactic such as ChatGPT, SEO, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook ads or blogging.

I’m here to tell you that it’s dangerous to build your business based on the flavor of the month… since there are literally thousands of trends, tactics, technologies and platforms that were once household names and are simply not in the conversation anymore. 

Platforms like Periscope, MySpace, Second Life, Geocities, Google Wave and Google Plus to name just a few. The internet graveyard is full of technologies people once thought would make or break their business success. 

The thing is — at the height of the boom — it’s easy to lose perspective and get a little overconfident. I see business trainers getting super enthusiastic about these strategies and sharing them indiscriminately with anyone who will listen as the be-all-end-all solution to online business success and world domination. 

All you gotta do is _______ (fill in the blank with your favorite strategy) and badda bing badda boom, you’ll be getting all the traffic and leads you need to have a successful business… and, of course, start making money while you sleep!

The problem is that the people they’re teaching may or may not be ready for that particular strategy.

And they’re not taking the time to ask their prospects where they are in their business right now and whether this strategy will help them grow their business and make more money right now. 

They’re not asking things like: 

Have you defined your customer journey so you can reliably turn traffic and leads into customers and repeat customers? 

Do you have a website that converts or a way to capture leads? 

Do you have a proven offer that works for that particular traffic source? 

Because not all offers work for all kinds of marketing. 

So while they are teaching strategies that may be working for them right now in the stage of business that they’re at, they’re not the strategies that got them where they are. And their students aren’t necessarily in the place to benefit from those strategies — yet. 

What I’ve noticed is that many teachers and trainers seem to develop amnesia about what it REALLY took to get them where they are today. They forget about the 2 or 3 years of work they put in to fine-tune their offers and marketing before those strategies were actually profitable for them.

And instead of letting their students know exactly who is in the position to benefit from their strategies and who isn’t, they market their tactics as a one-size-fits-all magic bullet solution and accept everyone into their programs, whether or not they’re ready to benefit from that strategy. 

Which is why it’s critical to identify where you are now and what steps will get results for you right now… so you can start making the money you need to keep your business going. 

Cause, let’s face it. You only have so much attention, focus, energy and resources to give… and there are a few key milestones that really matter at your current stage of business growth… and everything else is just gravy. 

Because most people can’t leapfrog from zero to a million overnight without putting some essential building blocks in place unless they just get lucky… 

And I don’t know about you, but I personally don’t want to leave my success to luck or chance. 

Because trial and error is the most expensive investment you can make in your business!

Luckily, THERE ARE a few universal steps that every entrepreneur needs to take without fail… a few steps to build the platform you need to get to the top of the staircase, so you can take off and fly. 

You can’t go parasailing from ground level. You need a little height before you can fly.

The 4 Stages of Business Growth

So these universal steps can be broken down into what I call The 4 Stages of Business Growth. 

And each stage is focused on taking action now and getting results now, so you can get in an upwards spiral of growth and development.

So I call these 4 Stages:

[1] the New Business Curious Stage where you’re first Activating your business

[2] the Early Stage Entrepreneur where you Accelerate your progress

[3] the Established Business Owner where you Amplify your reach

[4] and the Expert Empire Builder where you Ascend to the next level of thought leadership and global impact

Let me take you through each one of these Stages so you can identify where you are now, what the best business model is for you at your current stage, and what your next steps may be.

The New Business Curious Stage 

You’re curious about online entrepreneurship and starting a business but haven’t taken the leap. 

This is a super exciting stage because anything is possible. At the same time, it can be frustrating if you can’t narrow down the sky of possibilities to a clear laser-like focus or what I like to call a “get started choice”. 

So the New Business Curious Stage is where: 

  • You may have an idea or message but you’re probably not crystal clear on exactly what it is.
  • You haven’t cracked the code on exactly how to express and package what you do in a way that brings in consistent revenue, and the key word here is consistent.
  • So maybe you’re making a little money but mostly likely aren’t – yet. 

During this stage, you really want to focus on your Message Strategy because this stage is all about gaining clarity around who you serve and what you do. 

This stage is all about testing and fine-tuning your offers BEFORE you invest the resources to create a website or scale your products and marketing. 

At this stage, it’s really important to get into direct conversation with your prospects to identify the problems they have — just like we started to do yesterday — and the results they’re looking to achieve in their life, relationship, health, business or whatever you help them with.

The Early Stage Entrepreneur

This is when you’re in the early stages of launching an online business and the sky’s the limit. You’re making less than $2500/month and may still have a job or other income source to fund your dream. 

At this stage, you understand more or less what you do and who you serve, though you still may not have crystal clarity. At this point, you’ve gained a little momentum. You’re starting to bring in a little money consistently, but probably not as much money as you want — just yet. Perhaps you haven’t found your ultimate niche or specialization yet so you’re not 100% sure what makes you truly different.

In this stage you get new clients by getting on the phone or on Zoom and speaking with prospects one-on-one. 

Many entrepreneurs who want to build an online business try to skip this step… and jump straight into a later step because, let’s be honest — working one-on-one with people can seem a little “boring” or traditional when you hear about all the automated ways to make passive income on the internet while you sleep.

So a lot of people want to get right to the big email list and the thousands of customers, and I can’t blame them. I LOVE having a big email list and thousands of customers, but the truth is I didn’t start there.

I started serving customers 1:1 and discovering my true value from that personal interaction. 

Here’s how I like to explain it — before you can make money while you sleep, you have to be able to make money while you’re awake… and there’s no better way to refine your skills than talking to and serving people 1:1. 

Because before you can progress into leveraged, passive and scalable income models, you have to become masterful at enrolling people one on one.

The Established Business Owner Stage 

This is the most common way to scale your business and make a bigger impact. 

At this stage, you’re finally marketing 1:Many and are able to reach and serve a lot more people through:

  • Books/eBooks
  • Digital Products (online courses, info products, experience products)
  • Subscriptions (continuity or recurring memberships)
  • eCommerce (physical products)
  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Certification
  • Publishing (royalties)
  • Licensing 
  • SaaS (software as a service)
  • Blogs (ads & sponsorships)
  • and Podcasts (ads & sponsorships)

And a primary way you reach and build an engaged customer base or client base is by building your email list and marketing to them. 

You’ve probably heard the expression, “the money is in the list,” and that’s true to a certain extent. 

But it’s only true once you have valuable offers that convert to your audience… that’s why it helps to start with marketing 1:1 so you can test and establish your value BEFORE leaping into 1:Many unless you’re selling software or physical products.

This stage is super exciting and it requires more systems, team, marketing and resources to support, as you’re often going from serving a dozen or two clients to serving hundreds or even thousands of customers, many of whom you may never meet or talk to directly.

So some of the biggest investments at this stage are in technology, websites, delivery systems, paid ads and other 1:Many marketing.

As well as the guidance and support you need to use these tools effectively, rather than letting these tools overwhelm you, which often happens when you first start to scale your business… and of course you’ll need to start building a team to support these new efforts. You’ll need to start delegating more and more, so you can focus on creating new revenue streams and implementing new marketing channels.

I really wish I had known about the Stages of Business Growth when I first got started. Back in 2010, when I first entered the online business space, everyone was teaching how to build your list and becoming an authority in your field. So being the good overachieving student that I was, I spent all this time building a list and website at BeSeenBoldly.com. 

And I made ALL the mistakes…

[1] When I launched that site, I hadn’t even talked to my prospective customers yet. I just heard that I needed a website and I needed to start building my email list, so the first thing I did was create a website that could gather people’s email addresses. 

[2] I didn’t really know how I could best serve people and I didn’t have a clear picture of how I was going to make money. 

[3] So I was growing my list slowly, but I wasn’t making any money…

And eventually, once I started talking to real people and having actual conversations, I started to realize that Be Seen Boldly was the wrong business, the wrong model and the wrong website. I was moving so fast that I hadn’t taken the time to figure out what I wanted and, more importantly, what my audience wanted.

So don’t make this same mistake! 

The Expert Empire Builder Stage

You’re an ambitious entrepreneur with a proven model that’s bringing in at least $100K/year and want to scale to 7-figures and beyond. 

This is the stage where you appear to be everywhere. You’re the “it” girl or guy. People are talking about you.

You’re getting invitations to speak, do interviews and join masterminds.

The challenge with this stage is, because it’s so exciting, it’s super tempting to try to start here by using the trends, tactics and technologies that suit this stage before you’re ready to fully leverage them.

Because most online business trainers teach authority tactics, so many emerging entrepreneurs jump into the Expert Empire Builder Stage way too soon — creating product after product and marketing after marketing — rather than focusing on developing their blockbuster hit… then leveraging and scaling from the momentum created by having a hit product

One common symptom of jumping into the Expert Empire Builder Stage too soon is having several underperforming products and not being known for anything. So you’re super busy trying to market all these products, but none of them are really gaining momentum. 

Or you have a bunch of products that are disconnected from each other so there is no clear pathway that has people reinvesting in you product after product. Your business becomes a series of one-off offers rather than a clear journey and relationship that leads your tribe step-by-step from where they are to where they want to go.

The danger of jumping into the expert model too soon by offering a lot of products often at low pricepoints, is that it makes your business super complex and the more complex your business is, often the more difficult it is to run and the less profitable it is.

Authors and speakers in particular, often try to bypass the early stages and make their living off talks and low-price books and products.

Low-price products and talks are definitely powerful marketing tools WHEN you have something else to sell. Your business as an author or speaker really starts to take off when you put in place your high-end back-end offers, so people can invest more money with you more often to make a bigger difference in their life.

Here’s the thing: I know a lot of people in the online business space. At this point, we’ve served tens of thousands of people, plus I have a lot of friends who have this kind of business too. And very few people have made the leap from zero to authority overnight without building a solid foundation and passing through clear stages of business growth — I know I didn’t. 

I wasn’t an instant overnight success. But by following the ascension model I just taught you and doing the right actions at the right time, Murray & I have been able to grow our business significantly every year since we got started — about one stage per year.

No, we weren’t an instant overnight authority, but we did make steady progress year after year and now we have a business that we absolutely love. 

If you told me in 2011, when I finally found the courage to leave my $58K/year day job, that 12 years later, I would have a multi-million dollar business that reaches hundreds of thousands of people, I would never have believed you… and sometimes, I still pinch myself.

And if you’re not there yet, this is something to look forward to. I have to say it’s really amazing when you get to the point where you can let go of control and your business still runs, still serves and still makes money… I feel like I finally have time to focus on giving and serving without having to be responsible for all the details of running my business…

It honestly takes a village, a community, a tribe to get to where we are today. And I’m honored to have the support of all these amazing people on my journey and to have your support too. 

What actions are you taking right now to get your business to that next level? I’d love to know!

But before you go… I wanted to invite you to my FREE Amazing Lead Magnet Challenge!

If you’ve ever struggled to create a Lead Magnet that converts hordes of “lookers” into buyers, then join us for the FREE, 5-Day Amazing Lead Magnet Challenge, happening February 5-9!

I only do this Challenge for FREE once a year so don’t miss it 🙂 Click to save your spot.

 

Love it? Hate it? Let me know...

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    1. Shannon Goodell Avatar
      Shannon Goodell

      Thanks for reading and for the love — Marisa appreciates it!

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    1. Shannon Goodell Avatar
      Shannon Goodell

      Not this exact post BUT she does have a great tutorial on growing & scaling a business: https://youtu.be/zQK-bInpYhQ

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      Shannon Goodell

      Thank you! I know Marisa is thrilled that you found it valuable 🙂

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